Police unsure about use of roadside testing equipment

Sep 28, 2018

As the legalization of cannabis gets closer and closer the Canadian police forces are planning on what methods they will be using for roadside testing. The DragerTest 5000 was approved for roadside use by the federal Department of Justice in August but it doesn’t look like most police forces are yet onboard with its use.

The Ontario Provincial Police indicated that they have not yet decided if they will be implementing the use of the Drager roadside drug screening, meant to help identify impaired drivers. The device is a saliva tester which comes with a handheld portion which takes the sample in a cassette, and a reader which analyzes the samples of the saliva. The reader itself costs $5,000 and the cassettes carry a cost as well.

“At this point, no decision has been made as to when or how many we will be buying, but it is certainly something that we’re looking into, hopefully a decision will be made shortly and certainly before legalization comes into place in October. It’s still up in the air. It’s up to senior command staff.” Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the OPPs Highway Safety Division

Schmidt indicated that the OPP already have their standardized roadside tests they have trained to use and implement as necessary. As well there are specially trained officers, Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) who are able to do further, more detailed testing at the station to ascertain whether or not a driver is impaired.

The National Post contacted 15 of Canada’s largest police forces and stated that nearly all of them indicated that they are still deciding whether or not to use the devices. So far there is only the one device which has been approved and many police forces remain skeptical about its usability, particularly due to the excessive cost and the concerns regarding its efficacy in the cold winters.

“The issue around keeping swabs at a right temperature is problematic in our current climate” said Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau “Once we buy one, we have to equip each police cruiser with one of these devices and that’s not practical at this time.”

Many other police forces have indicated that they are holding off on ordering the devices until there is more information and they have weighed all of the options. The National Post confirmed that police forces in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Toronto, Windsor, London, Peel Region, as well as the OPP are not ordering the devices at this time. The Quebec police are holding off on ordering the device as well, as they are all also still awaiting provincial guidelines for how roadside testing will be dealt with.

There are some police forces which have ordered some of the devices for training including Winnipeg, Durham Region, Owen Sound, Orangeville and the RCMP. The RCMP have gone so far as to order twenty devices so far, as they work towards creating training programmes to implement its use.

It seems that many forces are awaiting for further options for testing, besides the Drager 5000, public safety minister Ralph Goodale stated, “A number of police forces have indicated that that’s not their preferred device, but there are others [testing devices] in the queue that are coming forward to scientific certification and verification as well.”

The police forces are unable to order any device until it has been fully evaluated and approved by the current federal standards. The testing has been going on for nearly a year with it being kept secret what devices are under review. It is likely that the two devices which were used in the pilot projects conducted last year by the RCMP and Public Safety Canada, the Securetec DrugRead and the Alere DDS-2, are included in those under review.